The fear of being laughed at: Individual and group differences in Gelotophobia

Willibald Ruch 1 , 1  and René T Proyer 2 , 2
  • 1 University of Zurich.
  • 2 University of Zurich.

Abstract

Single case studies led to the discovery and phenomenological description of Gelotophobia and its definition as the pathological fear of appearing to social partners as a ridiculous object (Titze 1995, 1996, 1997). The aim of the present study is to empirically examine the core assumptions about the fear of being laughed at in a sample comprising a total of 863 clinical and non-clinical participants. Discriminant function analysis yielded that gelotophobes can be separated from other shame-based neurotics, non-shame-based neurotics, and controls. Separation was best for statements specifically describing the gelotophobic symptomatology and less potent for more general questions describing socially avoidant behaviors. Factor analysis demonstrates that while Gelotophobia is composed of a set of correlated elements in homogenous samples, overall the concept is best conceptualized as unidimensional. Predicted and actual group membership converged well in a cross-classification (approximately 69% of correctly classified cases). Overall, it can be concluded that the fear of being laughed at varies tremendously among adults and might hold a key to understanding certain forms of humorlessness.

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HUMOR, the official publication of the International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS), was established over 25 years ago as an international interdisciplinary forum for the publication of high-quality research papers on humor as an important and universal human faculty. The journal publishes original contributions in areas such as interdisciplinary humor research, humor theory, and humor research methodologies.

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